Monday, September 25, 2017

Growing and Maturing Spiritually Leads to Christ-likeness and Servanthood

"Satan doesn't need for us to fall into gross sin in order to defeat us; a large does of laziness will do the trick just as well. Put Christ first in your life, and then commit every hour of the day to Him."
- Billy Graham in Quotes, c. 2011

Committing our days to Christ and living for Him is the only way to acquire spiritual growth and maturity. But this is a hard concept and an even more time consuming process that many Christians are not willing to try to understand, let alone engage in. However, every true born-again Christian should desire to grow and mature spiritually. Indeed, every Christian should at some point think upon the following question.

Do you want to acquire spiritual growth and maturity? Most Christians will answer “yes” to that question. For, what true Christian doesn’t want to grow closer to the Lord and learn from God’s Word. Moreover, as followers of Christ, Christians should want to know what God expects from His children. Unfortunately, our life-styles and our attitude toward spiritual growth and maturity often cause us to present a subtle difference in our attitude toward that question or to even give a negative answer to that question.

You may not be able to imagine any true authentic Christian saying, “no, I don’t want to grow spiritually or mature spiritually”. But wanting to grow and mature spiritually is totally different from actually pursuing that growth. Why is that the case? Well, for one thing, all humans and even Christians, are constantly fighting against our fleshly desires and the temptations of this world in which we live. Things like television, busywork and our responsibilities in life tend to keep even Christians from reading the Word of God and from finding out what God expects and wants for us. Moreover, trying to find the time to pray and communicate with God becomes harder and harder to do within our busy lives unless we set aside the time to communicate with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

In the Christian mentoring of others, it is especially important that the mentor pursues growing spiritually and endeavors to develop spiritual maturity. It is important, because without some growth and maturity a Christian cannot be prepared to answer a mentee’s questions. Nor, can the mentor set a good and godly example of Christ-like living and behavior for the mentee or a non-Christian, if the Christian or the Christian mentor has not grown and matured in knowledge of and obedience to the Lord. That is why every Christian, whether mentoring or not, should desire to endeavor to become more like Christ as she lives her earthly life in preparation for her heavenly life.

 Although we were all created to become more and more like Christ each and every day, and although with our Salvation we truly desire to become more and more like Christ, true born-again Christians still have to fight against their fallen nature in order to strive to become more like Christ. In other words, Christians have to constantly fight against the time traps of this life and the selfish desires and the temptations we face daily, which can lead to only wanting to do what we want to do. Certainly, we have to fight against all those selfish things in order to even begin the process of becoming more spiritually mature. But we are not alone in our fight against apathy and temptations. For, God is there with us to give us strength and determination if we will just turn to Him. Moreover, we are not alone in process of developing spiritual growth and maturity, for God is constantly with us, and He even sent His Only Son to show us the way. Furthermore, God has had good plans for each of us; plans He made for us even before we were born. (See Jeremiah 29:11).

God Created Us to Become Like Christ

God knew what He was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity, He restored. We see the original and the intended shape of our lives there in Him.” – (Romans 8: 29. The Message).

In fact, the record of our creation is found within the book of Genesis. It is there in Genesis that we read about God deciding to make man and then deciding on what man would look like. For we read,

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image and likeness.
– (Genesis 1: 26 NCV)

God decided to create caring and loving human beings with the potential to express His characteristics. In other words, we all have the potential to be wonderful caring human beings who can glorify and honor God. We were created in the image and likeness of God in that we were given the potential to develop the wonderful characteristics of goodness, kindness, empathy etc. Unfortunately, because of Adam and Eve’s mistake and sinfulness, we no longer are able to project these wonderful characteristics automatically. Now we have to struggle to become the type of human that God wants us to be. We have to learn how to glorify and honor God in many different ways as we struggle for holiness.

From the moment that God created Adam and Eve, God’s plan has been to make us like His Son. This doesn’t mean that God wants us to become gods. Rather, God wants us to become godly in all our actions and attitudes. He wants us to be kind, caring, loving humans who think about others before we think about ourselves. With our Salvation, God also wants us to take on the values, attitudes and characteristics of His Son, Jesus Christ. That is how we become godly. But first, we must learn what those values, attitudes and characteristics of Christ are and then learn how they were reflected in Christ’s life while He was here on earth, before we can emulate and reflect Christ-likeness within our life so others can see Christ in us.

Before we accepted Christ as our Savior, we all were sinners who were generally thoughtless and selfish, and in many cases, we did not desire to acquire the values by which to live honorably and godly. We were totally unrighteous no matter how good we thought that we were. But when a person believes on Christ as the living Son of God and then asks Christ to come into their heart, there is born a new person with a new desire created within them. The Apostle Paul explained this godly transformation into a new person when He told the Ephesians that with Salvation we are to “Take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately produces His character in you.”  -- (Ephesians 4: 22. The Message). So, how does this new life happen?

Well, after Salvation, Christ then sends His Holy Spirit to dwell within each “Saved” person. For, it is the Holy Spirit Who will create Christ’s character within each one of His born-again children. The Holy Spirit works on our hearts and our conscience to create loving, caring, righteous oriented individuals who take on the characteristics, attitude, and values of Christ. For, “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more.”  -- (II Corinthians 3: 18 NLT). In fact, the Holy Spirit nudges us to do the right things and to respond in the character of Christ through His “gentle whisper” to our heart. (see I Kings 19: 12 NIV).

Christ-likeness and godliness is not produced, though, by just imitating Christ’s actions. Our attitude and desire to become more like Christ must grow in our heart. It has to be real. Indeed, we must remember that God knows our heart, and He knows when we are play acting or putting on a performance for those around us, rather than truly living for Christ. In fact, if you have truly been Saved you will know that you know that you know that you are Saved, “For this is the secret: Christ lives in you– (Colossians 1:27. NLT). In other words, true Christ-likeness then comes from the inhabitation of Christ within your heart and soul. In fact, for the born-again Christian, “God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him.”  -- (Philippians 2: 13. NLT).

Spiritual Growth and Maturity

When you come to Christ in belief that He is the living Son of God, and when you ask Christ to cleanse you from all your sins and ask Him to come into your heart, your Salvation is not based upon any personal efforts or achievements that you have made. In other words, there is nothing that you can do to achieve your own Salvation. Christ is the One Who gives you His Salvation. Moreover, personal Salvation comes about as a result of understanding that you are a sinner, and you are unrighteous before a Holy God. It also comes about through the mercy and grace given to you by God, who sent His Only Son to die for you and me and then to conquer death for your and my sins by rising from the grave. This means that Salvation only comes about through your heart-felt belief in the risen Christ and from your desire to change your life by living for Christ rather than for yourself.

Spiritual growth and maturity, though, is not an instant thing when we are Saved. Although we might wish it to happen immediately, spiritual maturity doesn’t automatically occur when a person is Saved. Rather spiritual growth and maturity is the gradual and progressive development of your heart and soul into becoming more Christ-like, which has to be sought after and pursued. Moreover, this pursuit of spiritual maturity will take the rest of each person’s life, as it something that each Saved individual has to pursue all their lives. In fact, it is a constant life-long process of seeking godly knowledge, wisdom, and truth while living in obedience to God.

Becoming More Christ-like

To acquire spiritual growth and maturity one has to be dedicated to the long and even sometimes slow process of spiritual growth and maturity, which is the overall process of becoming more and more Christ-like. We know this because we can read in the Scriptures what the Apostle Paul says about acquiring Christ-likeness. He told the Ephesians that “[This process of becoming Christ-like] will continue until we are united by our faith, and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like Him.”  -- (Ephesians 4: 13. CEV). So, becoming Christ-like means that we not only need to study the Word of God, live the Word of God, and be obedient to the instructions and admonitions of Christ, but that we have to grow our faith in Christ; all the while striving to become more and more like Christ.

Ultimately, though, each person’s rate of spiritual growth and maturity has everything to do with their own desire to spiritually grow and mature for the Lord. In other words, while your effort has nothing to do with your personal Salvation, i.e. you cannot work your way into Salvation, however, your personal effort has a great deal to do with your personal growth and maturity in Christ. For, effort is required in order to cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s direction and work in your life. In fact, in the New Testament we are told at least eight times to “make every effort” in our spiritual growth to develop our faith and become more like Jesus, i.e., to become more Christ-like.

Making Every Effort to ...

Here are just a few of the statements that Jesus’ Apostles made in regard to our making every effort to become more like Jesus Christ:

The Apostle Paul told Timothy to “Make every effort to give yourself to God as the kind of person He will accept. Be a worker who is not ashamed and who uses the true teaching in the right way.”  -- (II Timothy 2: 15 NCV). But how do we know what “true teaching in the right way” is? Well, we must read and study the Bible to learn about God’s true teaching. Then we must meditate on the Word of God diligently, so that we will know how we are to act and how we can be obedient to God’s truth.

Additionally, the author of the book of Hebrews tells us that we are to “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”  -- (Hebrews 12:14. NIV). But what exactly is holiness? Well, again, to understand what God considers to be holiness, we have to read His Word, the Holy Bible, and meditate on the Holy Word. Then we have to apply God’s Word directly to our daily lives. This means that spiritual growth and maturity is a process, just like the process of going to school and then graduating years later with a degree. But if we don’t seek out and meditate on God’s Word, we are no better than those students who just do the bare minimum to get by in school. They have little to show for their time spent in school and cannot even tell someone who the first president of the United States was, let alone name any president before Obama.  So, just like those people who just get by in school, Christians who do not study the Word of God and learn to listen to the directions of the Holy Spirit or learn how to emulate Christ-likeness are just existing. They certainly will not be prepared to mentor other Christians or non-Christians, because they will not have acquired the characteristics, attitude, and values of Christ.

The Apostle Peter also explains to us just how important it is to acquire the characteristics, attitudes, values and knowledge of Christ. For Peter, too, said that Christians are to, “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. – (II Peter 1: 5-7. NIV). So, besides growing our faith, true authentic Christians are to work at acquiring goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. This may take years for a person to be able to say that they have acquired those seven characteristics of Christ.

But, besides choosing to let go of our old ways of acting and besides changing the way that we think, in order to develop spiritual growth and maturity, we must also acquire the nine characteristics and attributes of Christ’s by developing some godly habits. What are these attributes and habits that all Christians should want to develop? Well, they are of Christ, and they are essentially called the fruit of the Spirit. As I have mentioned before, Christ’s Holy Spirit lives within each born-again Christian. Indeed, Christ loves us so much that He gave us His Holy Spirit who indwells each new born-again Christian. Christ did this because He wants us to mature in our Christ-likeness. So, He gave us the Holy Spirit who endeavors daily to help us to achieve Christ’s characteristics and attitudes.

What are these characteristics and attitudes? Well, they are given to us by the Holy Spirit. For, the Word of God tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another– (Galatians 5: 22-26. NASB). Notice that there is some overlapping of the first seven characteristics or attributes that the Apostle Peter lists as part of Christ-likeness and the nine characteristics and attributes of Christ’s that the Apostle Paul enumerates as given to us by the fruit of the Spirit.

There are nine characteristics or attributes of Christ-likeness are given to us through the fruit of the Spirit. But, there are also seven characteristics or attributes of Christ-likeness that the Apostle Peter enumerates; some of which are different from the other nine of the Spirit. However, there are only three of these characteristics or attributes that are part of both lists. Those three characteristics found on both lists are Love, Goodness, and Self-control. I would say, then, that striving for those three and acquiring them is very important to the acquisition of the rest.

Striving for Christ-likeness through the pursuit of growth and maturity

Once we are Saved, the Holy Spirit’s goal is to produce Christ-likeness within us. For, it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us how to be dependent totally upon God. But it is only by listening to the Holy Spirit and with our complete commitment to dependence upon God that we can acquire Christ’s wonderful love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. However, without these nine characteristics of Christ’s we cannot become spiritually mature. But in order to acquire those nine characteristics of Christ’s, we must also acquire biblical and godly knowledge through reading and meditating on the Word of God. We also must develop perseverance or determination in the pursuit of growth and maturity and in our faith in Christ. Finally, we can only acquire godliness if we learn how to show brotherly kindness and love to others. For Christ said that we are to love others as we love ourselves.

True spiritual growth and maturity leads into serving others. For, it is with our Salvation, along with our spiritual growth and maturity, and the acquisition of the characteristics of Christ, that we can then become Christians who will build up and encourage others through Spirit-led ministries such as Active Relational Christian Mentoring.  But first, we have to fulfill Christ’s admonition to us which is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – (Galatians 5: 14. NASB). For, it is only in loving our neighbor as our self that we can step up to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”  -- (Galatians 6: 2. NASB).

Steps to Spiritual Growth and Maturity

There are so many things that we can learn from the Bible, i.e. God’s Word, about obedience, growth, maturity, truth, knowledge, and wisdom. But, there is one other thing that I will mention that helps us develop greater spiritual growth and maturity and that is our complete faith and reliance upon God and His Son as we go through the trials and tribulations that this earth has for us. As I have mentioned many times before, we live in a fallen world. The consequences of living in a fallen world, though, are many from such things as sickness, tragedies, evil intentions, temptations, wars, and diseases, and including the manipulations of our fellow man. The result is that we may be faced with trials that we did not expect or that we would rather not go through. However, it is in the handling of each of this trials that we can personally grow and mature in not only our faith in God, but in our Christ-likeness as well.

The Psalmist explains why we have to go through some of the trials that we encounter in our life journey, when he writes, “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs, You have caused men to ride over our heads, we went through the fire and through water, but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.”  -- (Psalm 66: 10-12. NKJV.). Every time we keep our faith and our trust in the Lord, we will be purified as silver is purified. It is through these trials that we are developing more and more of the characteristics of Christ when we completely trust in God and lean upon the development of Christ-likeness.

The Apostle Paul told his mentee, Timothy, to “Run away from infantile indulgences. Run after mature righteousness -faith, love, peace – joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before the Lord.”  -- (II Timothy 2: 22. MSG).  As we live this life we are to grow and become even more righteous in spite of the things that we have to face in this life. In fact, we can face all trials through honest and serious prayer, because Christ brings our prayers before God, and He hears our every need. It is through faith and prayer that we can overcome whatever negative situation that we are in, because we know that God is there for us. God may not take away our trial, but He will always be there for us, if we will just turn to Him in prayer and communication.

It is also through our own personal trials and tribulations that we can be there for others when they go through something similar. In fact, those that never seem to have any problems cannot develop the compassion and love that is needed when it comes to helping others endure their trials. If we never had a trial, we would never know the all-encompassing love that God has for His children. For it is through trials and our faith in God that we begin to understand the love that God has for us. It is also through our trials that we can show our love and understanding to another who faces a similar situation.

So, what does this all mean for you?

Well, it means that as true born-again Christians it is our responsibility to pursue the process of growing and maturing spiritually every day of our lives. Yes, we must work at growing spiritually just as we work at our job or work at taking care of our family. To grow spiritually we also have to make the time to read God’s Word and to meditate upon His Word so that we will know how we are to live for God.  Moreover, we have to learn to communicate with God daily through prayer in Christ’s name.

Growing and Maturing Through Servanthood

Part of growing and maturing spiritually is found in our willingness to be servants for the kingdom of God. We grow ever more mature when we become servants and we do for others in the name of God and when we do for the Lord by sharing the Gospel message. For,

When the Gospel of Jesus Christ is presented with authority – quoting from the very Word of God – He takes that message and drives it supernaturally into the human heart.”  -- Billy Graham.

Just doing nothing but living our own sheltered lives, however, will not develop spiritual growth and maturity. In other words, we cannot become hermits who are just waiting for Christ to return and take us to heaven. Rather, we must tell others about God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and commit to servanthood that will help others become all they can be for the Lord, themselves, their family, their friends, and acquaintances. It is a daily process that is required in order to become more spiritually mature.

Active Relational Christian Mentoring (ARCM) is a wonderful way to be of service to those around us who may just need a mentoring friend. But, to engage in servanthood and to be a Christian mentor, you need daily develop your spiritual maturity by making a commitment to read God’s Word and to pray to God for the strength and knowledge that you will need to help another. For, no matter how knowledgeable you are in your particular field, whether it be math, science, motherhood, your hobbies, or your career, you will need God’s knowledge given through the Holy Spirit and your understanding of the Bible in order to share with others.

I have a little book entitled Promises and Prayers for Friends which is a compilation of Bible verses and quotations from different people on various topics such as Spiritual Growth, Strength, Talents, Testimony, etc. It was copyrighted by Family Christian Press in 2005. I found the following quotation in it that I am including here, because it is succinct and to the point on acquiring spiritual maturity.

The path to spiritual maturity unfolds day by day. Each day offers the opportunity to worship God, to ignore God, or to rebel against God. When we worship Him with our prayers, our words, our thoughts, and our actions, we are blessed by the richness of our relationship with the Father. But if we ignore God all together or intentionally rebel against His commandments, we rob ourselves of His blessings.
Today offers yet another opportunity for spiritual growth. If you choose, you can seize that opportunity by obeying God’s Word, by seeking His will, and by walking with His Son.”  -- anonymous.

I will now end with a statement from Corrie ten Boom who survived the Holocaust. She wrote: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit; join a church where the members believe the Bible and know the Lord; seek the fellowship of other Christians; learn and be nourished by God’s Word and His many promises. Conversion is not the end of your journey – it is only the beginning.”  -- Corrie ten Boom

May you enjoy your life journey as you grow in spiritual maturity and the desire to be of service to others. May God bless all your mentoring endeavors!

May I also suggest reading the God inspired book, The Three-Strand Cord of Active Relational Christian Mentoring to find out even more about the benefits and blessings of pursuing spiritual maturity and of sharing your knowledge, wisdom, gifts, and talents with your mentees.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Getting Rid of Self-Criticism

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent– (Eleanor Roosevelt).

Many women are very critical of themselves. This constant critical introspection can cause all kinds of problems in their lives. Obviously, there are many reasons for their constant self-criticism, but the first reason unfortunately often comes from having had a parent who constantly mentioned the negatives that he or she saw in their child rather than focusing on the positives. These negative criticisms can be constant verbal criticisms or they can be the subtler criticisms of facial expressions and body language. But whatever kind they are they are, all criticisms given during the formative years can do great damage.

 Even overt snide remarks, or the subtle rolling of the eyes can be criticisms that a child will easily pick up on. In fact, young children can often pick up on sarcasm and other negative statements that adults may not think they understand; all the while understanding that those words, sarcasms, and those hateful looks were really said or made to hurt rather than to help. This type of constant criticism can eventually lead to an inferiority complex, shyness, or even fear of others. These criticisms can also lead to low self-esteem. To make matters worse, when the child enters school, other kids can quickly pick up on the child’s insecurity or poor view of themselves, and then they, too, will often jump on the bandwagon and continue the criticism, which can easily turn into bullying from others.

Most criticized and bullied people survive, but not without some strongholds that they can’t seem to let go. For, when this browbeaten child finally becomes an adult, it sometimes isn’t easy for her to put away or forget about all those negative statements, sarcasm, and distaining looks that she received over the years. Now, she will often criticize herself because she thinks that is the thing to do. This is because she has been trained to look at herself in a critical way. So, even when others may not continue the criticism, the woman may continue to look at everything she does with a critical eye. The result is that in an attempt to overcome the negatives that she has faced and heard all her life, some women may take on the role of critiquing themselves, or they may even become critical toward others.

Certainly, a born-again Christian woman needs to let go of self-criticism and she needs to quit being critical of others. But, it isn’t always easy to overcome self-criticism and criticism of others without the help of Christian mentor that can help explain to the woman that Christ loves her. This is where the counseling type of Active Relational Christian Mentoring (ARCM) can be of great help to the woman. Furthermore, the counseling type of ARCM can be especially important to a new Christian who needs someone to walk them through what being a Christian means.  

Obviously, self-criticism is extremely harmful in many ways, but one of the most detrimental things that self-criticism does is to undermine what God wants for the life of that woman. Remember, that God loves each of His children, and He wants what is best for each of us. He doesn’t want any woman to feel inferior or critical of herself. Moreover, God made each one of us with special gifts and talents that can be used to not only be the best person that we can be, but so that we can also use those gifts, talents, knowledge and wisdom to help other women become all that they can be for the Lord, themselves, and their family. Furthermore, God created each person to be a special envoy for the LORD and to glorify Him within their life. Indeed, it is important to understand that God loves us and wants us to love Him back. But it is hard to love God with all your heart when you are focused on criticizing yourself or others. That is why it is so important to help another woman focus on loving others and loving God. A good active relational Christian mentor who is grounded in the Word of God and who has a great deal of love for others in her heart can be just the person to help the woman who is self-critical.

God does not want us to be so critical of ourselves that we cannot live for Him or do the work of helping others. Yes, God wants us to learn from our mistakes and to try not to make those mistakes again, but He does not want us to wallow in self-criticism or self-pity either. Those two things keep us from being able to focus on servanthood and on loving others. In fact, God sent His Son into the world to forgive us of our sins and in believing on Him as the risen Son of God to then receive Salvation and righteousness. So, if you are an authentic “born-again” Christian your sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. Moreover, you no longer have to be self-critical, but instead remember to always turn to Christ to ask Him to help you to not focus on your mistakes, but to correct those mistakes if possible and then continue living for Him with all your heart.

We all have room for improvement even after we have accepted Christ as our Savior. Yes, our sins have been forgiven, but we can still miss the mark at times. However, instead of being critical about ourselves and getting into a depression or beating up on ourselves, we need to evaluate the situation. Can we see where we went wrong? Is it possible to correct the mistake? If not, can we ask for forgiveness, if needed? Can we start again? Can we learn from our mistake and then help others to not make the same mistake? Answering these questions and others is called evaluation, i.e., when we look closely at our motives, for ways to improve or for ways to correct negative situations, look at how to not make that same mistake again, and then to look at how we can grow from what we have learned from our mistake. As you can see, there is definitely a big difference between self-evaluation and self-criticism. Evaluation is a method of improving ourselves without being self-critical.

Evaluation vs. Self-Criticism

Yes, there is always room for improvement in our lives. But in order to find ways to improve ourselves, we must first learn to evaluate the situations we have found our self in or learn to evaluate the mistakes that we have made to see if there are ways to avoid making those mistakes again. Certainly, we need to look at “missing the mark” through eyes that can look for positive changes rather than through self-critical eyes. Only when we have positively evaluated the situation or the mistake can we make the needed positive adjustments and then find ways to not make those mistakes again.

There is definitely a difference between evaluation and self-criticism. Evaluation is supposed to be constructive, i.e. leading to improvement or leading to a more positive outcome or response, whereas self-criticism can be very destructive. Self-criticism tears a person down. It leads to even more hurt when the self-criticism continues. However, when we evaluate our lives, looking for ways that we can improve or become more helpful and servant-oriented Christians, we take the emphasis off ourselves and put it on living for the Lord. The result is positive and growth-related responses that not only encourage our own emotions, growth, and wisdom but which can then lead to responses that encourage other women as well. But when we criticize our lives, only negative, hurtful, and harmful responses are the result. That is because, self-criticism focuses only on things that probably lead to the self-promoting lies of hurt and which ultimately encourage low self-esteem.

Unfortunately, much of the self-talk that we do to ourselves is actually the repetition of lies that the devil wants us to believe. You see, the devil wants to destroy not only the hearts of all Christians but he wants our souls as well. The devil cannot have our souls, but he can do everything in his power to promote our own self-loathing. If he can keep us from focusing on Christ and the Father, then the devil has had a good day. He does this by encouraging us to focus on ourselves and our own problems. So, the devil plants lies in our minds and then encourages us to not only believe them, but to make those lies into strongholds within our hearts. These strongholds then bind Christians up into a type of bondage that keeps them from living totally for the Lord. Obviously, the devil can’t take the soul of a true born-again Christian, but the devil wants to make that soul as miserable as possible. For when we are miserable and not turning to Christ in faith and trust, we do not express the love of Christ to the rest of the world. This is what the devil wants; he does not want Christians to be advocates for Christ or to help other people come to know Christ as their Savior. So, if the devil can get Christians to focus on themselves instead of on Christ and living the Christian life, he can eliminate one more potential Christian mentor and one more person who would have shared the Gospel Message with another.

Obviously, when we are focused on ourselves, we are not focused on Christ. Nor does self-criticism encourage us to think of other people who may need help or support. However, Christians should be looking at others and finding ways to help those that need help. That is why all Christians should get in the habit of evaluating their lives in the light of what Christ would want us to do rather than for looking for ways to put ourselves down.

Christians women can live fulfilled and productive lives for Christ when they get in the habit of evaluating their lives through the eyes of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. How would Jesus want us to live? What can I do to share God’s love and Salvation with others? These type of questions and evaluation leads to productive and happy lives that are focused on Christ and doing for others instead of thinking only of themselves and what they may or may not have done wrong. In fact, we can build ourselves up and can build up other women by not only evaluating our own lives, but by meditating on God’s Word and then sharing God’s Word with others.

Meditating on the Word of God

We have all heard of the word “meditating”. However, the word “meditating” often gets a bad rap, because people immediately think of the “new age” type of meditating that is so common today. However, God used the word meditating long before there was yoga and its meditation or before the far east transcendental meditation arrived on the scene. In fact, shortly after Moses died, Joshua was given the responsibility of leading the Israelites into The Promised Land. The Lord spoke to Joshua at that time and among other things the Lord said to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Obey all the Laws of Moses. … Study this Book of Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed.– (Joshua 1: 7, 8. NLT).

The Book of Law at that time consisted of the first five books of the Bible which had been written by Moses under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So, Joshua did not have the entire Bible as we do today to meditate upon because he only had the first five books of the Bible. But God told Joshua to meditate upon the Book of Law and to tell the Israelites to meditate upon it too.

Later as the Lord spoke to other believing men about writing and recording His Words, the number of books added to the Bible grew. We, now have a total of 66 books of the Bible to read and meditate upon. In fact, these Holy Spirit Inspired Scriptures were written by more than 40 authors on three different continents over a period of 1500 years. Moreover, every word from Genesis to Revelation is God-breathed through the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to Timothy in which he reminded Timothy and us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.– (II Timothy 3: 16. NIV).

Training, teaching, rebuking, and correcting can only be accomplished, though, if Christians study and meditate upon the Word of God. This means that we must first read the Word of God and then think upon what we have read. How does what we have read affect our life? How can we use the information that God has given us to live a better life and to share our faith in God? Could we possibly meditate upon a particular scripture until we have it memorized so that we can then bring that scripture to mind when we need it? All these and many other questions can be answered if we are willing to meditate upon the Word of God.

The book of Psalms is one of my favorite books in the Bible. There is so much information in the Psalms and so many God inspired words that touch my heart just when I need help. Several of the psalms also touch specifically upon meditating upon the Word of God. In fact, the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119. This psalm may have been written by Ezra around the time of the rebuilding of the Temple after the Israelites were allowed to return to their land. But, what is so interesting about this particular psalm is that it is actually a repetitive meditation upon the Word of God and its beauty. Indeed, meditating upon the Word of God helps God’s children to stay strong and pure, while at the same time it teaches us how to grow ever stronger in our faith toward God. In fact, in Psalm 119 some of the verses actually speak to and promote the concept of meditation on the Word of God. For example, in Psalm 119: 15 the author of this psalm says of the Lord, “I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways.” Then in verses 77 and 78 he again says, “Let Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight. … I will meditate on your precepts.” And then in verse 97, the author says again, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” – (NIV).

If a person is meditating on the Word of God they cannot be focusing on self-criticism. So, instead of continually looking for things that others or you have done wrong, it is much better to focus on meditating on the Word of God to learn from it. God’s Words will soak into our brains and create a pathway to even greater love for our Lord. Try it sometime. You will be surprised at how much peace you will receive from meditating on God’s Word.

As you may know, David wrote many of the Psalms. He, too, talks of meditating on God’s Word in several of his psalms. In fact, in the very first psalm, which may have been written as a preface to all the psalms, David wrote: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.”  -- (Psalm 1: 1, 2. NIV).

In another one of his psalms of praise, David wrote:
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend Your works to another; they will tell of Your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on Your wonderful works.”
 -- (Psalm 145: 3-5. NIV).

We can build ourselves and others up by constantly meditating on God’s Word and then sharing that Word with others who may need to hear it. This means, though, that we have to actually make the time to sit down and read God’s Word, then think upon what we have read, contemplate how the words that we have read impact our own life, and then memorize some of the words so that we can use them to impact the lives of others. Obviously, we cannot do the work of the Lord if we do not know what God says about the different subjects that we may encounter in life or know how God wants us to use them in talking to another woman. But, God’s Word addresses all aspects of life. We just need to be willing to read His Word and meditate upon it.

The Word of God is the living Word that is always there to give us strength, direction and purpose. God put His Word into print so that we can access His Word at any moment in time. This also means that if we meditate on God’s Word and keep it close to our hearts that we can pull up God’s Word within our minds at both the crucial times in our own lives and at crucial or needed times in another woman’s life. This wonderful Words of the Lord can be just the right words that a mentee may need to hear. However, if we do not have the Word of God in our hearts, we cannot fully mentor or share those words with another woman who needs to hear the Word of God for a specific moment in her life.

God is Pulling for You!

Did you know that God is always pulling for you? In fact, God wants you to succeed in all your good endeavors. However, God does not want you to be self-critical or to put yourself down. For, God knows that self-criticism is a tactic of the devil. So, God wants you to walk with His Son, Jesus Christ in all aspects of your life, including in your evaluation of your life. We know that God wants the best for us, because we are told in the Bible that God has good plans for everyone that He created. However, everyone was created with “free will” so that we can choose how we live, and we can choose the direction that our life will go. That is why some people refuse to acknowledge God or Christ as their Savior. They are afraid that they will have to give up their free will. They have instead chosen to live for themselves and for the devil. But those who use their free will to choose to live for Christ and His Father instead of for themselves will find even greater freedom in the love of God. Moreover, they can take to heart the words that God told to the prophet Jeremiah. God said, “For I know that plans I have for you, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – (Jeremiah 29: 11. NIV).   

Notice that God told the Israelites that He has plans to give them a hope and a future. God’s plans are always good and do not change. He has good plans to give you a hope and a future too. Indeed, He plans are to give all His children a hope and a future. But it is up to each of us to choose to live in obedience to God’s Word and to choose to live with a servant’s heart toward others. This means that we must quit being self-critical or critical of others. Instead, we must look to leaning on and trusting in God for everything.

Keeping those words in Jeremiah 29: 11 within our hearts can give us strength and direction for our lives. Indeed, God has specific blessings just waiting for those who seek them out through trust in, obedience to and love for God. All you have to do is ask the Lord for His help, and then the Holy Spirit will help you find or bring to your mind the specific Scripture that you need as you read and meditate on God’s Word. Instead of being self-critical, God’s Word will then help you accomplish wonderful productive things in your life that God has planned for you.

If you are having a rough time not being self-critical, try to find a Christian woman mentor who has the love of Christ in her heart. This Christian mentoring woman should be able to help you see, by using God’s Scripture, what words you need to focus on to understand how God views you, His child. For, God loves you and wants you to enjoy your life lived for Him. Having a woman Christian mentor who also loves the Lord and sees the good in embracing what the Lord has given us through His Word will help you see not only yourself but others in a whole different light.

Yes, words can hurt! People can be cruel. But we have a choice in the way that we allow those words or that cruelty to affect our lives. If you choose Christ to be your advocate and your Savior, you will never again have to accept those negative words. For, God has good words for you. Christ has loving words for you. Moreover, you are important and special to God. You were chosen to be a member of the Kingdom of God. That is special!

Mistakes Happen in Life

The greatest mistake that you can make in life is continually fearing that you will make one.”  -- (Elbert Hubbard).

Part of being self-critical is dwelling on the mistakes that we make in life. Mistakes just happen in life. Mistakes are a part of life and can be the impetus to developing something even better. For example, just think of how many mistakes that inventors and entrepreneurial people make before they finally succeed in accomplishing their goal. Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, made many mistakes before the light bulb worked. What if he had just given up on himself and his project? What would have happened if he had become so self-critical about the mistakes that he made that he couldn’t continue with his invention. Someone else may have come up with the light bulb, but Edison would not have achieved what he had the capacity and knowledge to achieve if he had just given up, stopped, and become self-critical.

Instead of giving up because of your mistakes, you need to ask the Lord for grace and the understanding to know that you are a work in progress. In other words, we have to be kind to ourselves, if we are ever going to accomplish what God has given us the ability to do. That is why we must ask God to help us rise above our mistakes with grace and to help us to not get down on ourselves when we do make a mistake. Along the way, we have to also ask God for patience to accomplish what we need to do in life.

Remember that discouragement is prompted by the devil, and you cannot let the devil get a foothold in your life. Instead, ask God to give you His words of encouragement through your study of His Scriptures. Then ask God to keep you free from self-criticism and self-condemnation as you meditate on and cling to the Holy Scriptures. Then choose every opportunity to help others as you continue the good work that God started in you.  Also remember to:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” – (Ephesians 4: 29. ESV)

  Prayer for a less self-critical attitude

Dear Lord, please help me to focus on the positive aspects of my life, and to not be critical about the things that I cannot change about myself. Also help me to be less critical of others.

Please, Lord, help me to not be judgmental or critical toward myself or others. I know that no one is perfect. In fact, the only perfect person is Jesus Christ, my Savior. But knowing that I am not perfect should not turn into a pity party or into constant self-criticism. Nor, should I allow the past or present criticisms of others keep me from becoming everything that You want me to be. Those criticisms are not who I am. So, instead, I ask You, Lord, to help me understand and accept that You love me with all my faults and my failures.

I know that you want me to learn from my mistakes. I also know that you want me to grow into a healthy wise person who loves You and others. So, please help me to overcome my true faults and failures as You show me Your truths from within the pages of the Bible. Through complete trust in You I will accept Your help in changing what I need change or in accepting those things that I can’t change, so that I can work at totally living for Christ. Instead of focusing on self-criticism please help me to focus each day on living for Christ.

I thank You, Lord, for your Word! For, it is through Your Word that I can find answers to my problems. And, in reading Your Word, I now know that I am not the only one that has at times failed You. I also know, that You forgive those that are truly repentant. You gave us an example of Your loving forgiveness through the story of the Apostle Peter who really could have succumbed to his own self-criticism for his failure to stand up for Your Son, Jesus Christ.                                                                                                                          

 It is through Christ, and Your Holy Word that I learned that even when Peter did the most horrible thing of denying that he knew Christ, that You and Christ forgave Him. For, the Bible tells us that Peter was in a terrible self-loathing state, after he had failed to acknowledge knowing Christ after Christ had been taken into custody to be crucified. It was in reading the Holy Word written by the Apostle John, where I learned that Peter made his big mistake when he followed Christ and the men who had captured Him to the High Priest’s courtyard.

 Peter had been sitting in the courtyard of the high priest to whom Christ had been taken, waiting to find out what they were going to do with Christ. There in the courtyard a serving girl asked Peter if he was one of Christ’s disciples, but Peter denied knowing Christ. During that evening, Peter was asked two more times if he knew Christ, but he ended up denying that he knew Christ a total of three times before daylight. When Peter realized what he had done, i.e., disavowing any knowledge of Christ, he was disgusted with himself. He believed that he was no longer worthy of Christ’s love.

But Lord, the story did not stop there for you showed Peter that even when we do something terribly wrong we can be forgiven. We do not need to live by self-criticism and under a cloud for the rest of our lives. For later after Christ arose from the grave, You, Christ, met Peter and the other disciples for breakfast on the beach when You appeared to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. For, the Scriptures tell us that,

After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these’? ‘Yes Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘you know I love you’.
Then feed My lambs,’ Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question. ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
‘Yes Lord,’ Peter said, ‘you know I love You.’
Then take care of My sheep,’ Jesus said.
Once more He asked him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?
Peter was grieved that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, ‘Lord you know everything. You know I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Then feed My sheep.’”  -- (John 21: 15-17. NLT).

In this exchange, Lord, you showed us that Peter was not only forgiven, but was being charged with an extraordinary job to do for You. Just like Peter learned, Lord, I have also learned that it is one thing to say that we love you, but something totally different to be willing to do what you have asked us to do in serving you. For in order to do the job that you have given each of us to do, we have to take the focus off of self-criticism and take the focus totally off of ourselves and instead focus on You.

In the above Scripture, I learned that Peter had repented from making the mistake that he made in the courtyard when he denied You three times. I now understand, Lord, that in these verses, You Lord, were asking Peter to make a commitment to living for You. I, too, want to commit my life to living for You and working for You, Lord.

Although it seemed like Peter at first tried to give quick superficial answers, You knew Peter’s heart, and Peter had to face his true feelings for You and commit to doing Your work, dear Lord. I, too, can give up my self-loathing and self-criticism when I make mistakes and allow You to cleanse me and show me how I can become better and wiser through self-evaluation, just as Peter began to understand his commitment to You, Lord. I know Peter had to commit to self-evaluation, I want to commit to self-evaluation too, Lord. And in so doing, Lord, I want to be the person that You created me to be. Thank you for Your forgiveness and for being my Savior!